Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 8th, 2019

Rockwell Automation’s Turbo Encabulator

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I love this.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Video

Gender neutrality doesn’t hurt children – it’s part of our history

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Ainsley Hawthorn writes in the Globe & Mail:

Ainsley Hawthorn is an author, cultural historian, and multidisciplinary artist based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, who holds a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Yale University.

How schools should address gender identity – or whether they should at all – continues to be a fraught topic for parents, teachers and governments across Canada.

In British Columbia and Alberta, controversy rages on over SOGI 1 2 3, a resource program for educators on how to make schools inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Meanwhile, in Ontario, after scrapping the sex-ed program introduced by the previous government, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have pledged to reinstate the portions of the curriculum that cover gender identity and consent, but gender identity will now be covered in Grade 8 instead of Grade 3.

At the root of these debates is a fear of what will happen if we tell young children that gender is flexible, or that not everyone needs to express their gender the same way. But we can look to our own history for proof that children don’t need strict gender distinctions to flourish. In fact, just a century ago, young boys and girls in North America were much less differentiated from each other than they are today.

Portrait of Louis XIV of France and his brother the Duc d’Orléans attributed to the Beaubrun brothers, ca. 1645

During the Victorian era, a young child wearing a lace-trimmed dress, an elaborately decorated hat and a pair of patent-leather Mary Janes was as likely to be a boy as a girl. Today, we interpret these garments as feminine, but at the time, they were considered gender-neutral, at least as far as children were concerned.

Gender-neutral clothing was the rule from the moment a child was born. For about 300 years, European infants wore the same outfit, regardless of sex: a white gown.

As a child grew from a baby to a toddler, the gown was exchanged for a dress made of sturdier and, for the upper classes, more decorative fabric. The transition was known as shortcoating, since toddlers’ dresses were shorter than infants’ gowns, which extended below the feet and would have been impossible to walk in.

This choice of clothing had many practical advantages. It was easy to flip up a gown to change a baby’s diaper, and white fabric could be bleached again and again to remove the inevitable stains.

Portrait of Hugh John Macdonald, son of John A. Macdonald, by William Sawyer, 1852 (Library and Archives Canada)

In a time when fabric was expensive and people generally owned less clothing than most of us do today, a loose dress left room for a child to grow, extending the garment’s lifespan. The open bottom could accommodate growth in height, and extra fabric was often left in the seams to allow for expanding chests.

The dresses worn by older Victorian children were made of washable fabrics such as linen and cotton. They were typically around knee length, which may have made them more conducive to active play than the restrictive trousers of the period.

Children graduated to adult clothing when they reached “the age of reason,” usually around seven years old. Boys this age would be “breeched”: they were given their first pair of trousers and, often, their first haircut.

Girls’ clothing changed around this age, too. In the 19th century, for instance, an older girl would have been outfitted in floor-length women’s dresses, rather than the knee-length dresses of childhood. She would have been introduced to undergarments such as stays or even a corset and, by puberty, she would have begun to wear her hair up.

Breeching signified a child’s passage into young adulthood and marked the age when a boy, especially if he was a member of the working class, might begin to take on adult responsibilities. British historian William Hutton, who was sent to work as an apprentice in a silk mill by the age of six, was breeched in 1727, when he was four years old and was given household and child-care duties soon afterward. In his autobiography, he remembered when “dressed in my best suit, a cocked hat, and walking-stick, then four years and a half, my sister took me by the hand to Gilbert Bridge’s, for the evening’s milk, which was, in future, to be my errand.”

When we look back on how children dressed in North America and Europe before the 20th century, it’s important to note that – however it might seem to us – boys weren’t dressed “like girls.” Rather, children were dressed like children, and their clothing was distinct from both men’s and women’s apparel.

Children’s gender neutrality extended beyond the way they were dressed. Babies in particular were spoken about in terms that were more or less genderless, and they were referred to using the pronoun “it,” rather than “he” or “she.” Consider this excerpt from The Maternal Management of Children in Health and Disease by Dr. Thomas Bull, published in 1840: . . .

Continue reading.

Full disclosure: In the family photograph album is a photograph of me as an infant, wearing what my mother told me was a “little-boy dress.”

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Daily life

It’s Never Going to Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done

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AKA “Go with what you’ve got.” Tim Herrera writes in the NY Times:

So here’s a grand, wonderful irony: I started writing this newsletter in early June.

I’d come back to my meager Google Doc every few days, reworking the same few sentences, each time thinking I was finally ready to finish. But I never really made any progress — I wanted it to be just right, and I fell into an editing and re-editing spiral. But, of course, just right is a mirage that never materializes, and that mirage prevented me from … actually finishing this newsletter.

Is the prose here any better for all of that incremental faux-progress? Probably not! I wanted it to be, but I know that if I had just gotten it done when I wanted to, instead of examining every word with a microscope, I could’ve saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress (and actually hit my self-imposed deadline). And that needless obsession with perfection is kind of the whole deal: By agonizing over tiny improvements in our work — if they even are improvements — we prevent ourselves from achieving the actual goal of, you know, doing the work.

“At some point, we must remind ourselves, any changes we make to a creation no longer make it better but just different (and sometimes worse),” Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote in Psychology Today on the topic of just getting things done. “Recognizing that inflection point — the point at which our continuing to rework our work reaches a law of diminishing returns — is one of the hardest skills to learn, but also one of the most necessary.”

He added that “overworking something is just as bad as failing to polish it.” [However, I will point out Michelangelo’s dictum “It takes work to remove the traces of work.” – LG]

By now, you’re probably thinking of that quote attributed to Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” And yes, that’s the idea. But we all know that, so what’s the way around it?

One solution is a take on a topic longtime readers of this newsletter will recognize: the M.F.D., or the Mostly Fine Decision. (Patent still pending.)

The M.F.D. is the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept as a consequence of a decision. It’s what you’d be perfectly fine with, rather than the outcome that would be perfect. The root of the M.F.D. lies in the difference between maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers relentlessly research all possible options in a scenario for fear of missing the “best” one, while satisficers make quick decisions based on less research.

But here’s the key: Somewhat paradoxically, research has shown that satisficers are more satisfied with their decisions than maximizers are.

In other words, just getting it done — whether that’s a decision you have to make or work you have to do — will leave you more satisfied than if you had agonized over the task in the pursuit of perfection. Even better, you’ll actually finish.

“Easier said than done,” you’re probably thinking. True. So here are two strategies that might help you out.

First, embrace the magic of micro-progress: Rather than looking at tasks, projects or decisions as items that must be completed, slice them into the smallest possible units of progress, then knock them out one at a time. This strategy relieves the pressure of thinking we need a perfect plan before we begin something — after all, if your first step is “open a new Google Doc for this week’s newsletter” and not “pick a perfect topic, write a perfect lede and have a perfect organization,” you either have achieved that micro-goal or you haven’t. There’s no gray area.

Second, reframe the way you think about the things you have to do. Focus far less on the end result, and far more on the process — this allows you to be aware of the progress you’re making, rather than obsessing over the end result of that progress. As the writer James Clear put it, “when you think about your goals, don’t just consider the outcome you want. Focus on the repetitions that lead to that place. Focus on the piles of work that come before the success. Focus on the hundreds of ceramic pots that come before the masterpiece.”

In the end, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Toxic-Gas Catastrophe Hiding Beneath Your Home

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Larry Buhl writes in the New Republic:

In October 2015, a fragile well casing ruptured at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field in Los Angeles, California—and no one could figure out how to stop it. For 118 days, 100,000 metric tons of methane and other hazardous pollutants seeped into the atmosphere. The single worst natural gas leak in American history was not only a disaster for the climate; it displaced thousands of nearby residents for months. Even after returning home, many complained of headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and other symptoms they blamed on the lingering airborne chemicals.

And most of these people didn’t see it coming. The majority of residents near Aliso Canyon claimed they had no idea they lived near a natural gas storage field until the 2015 blowout happened. They didn’t know that if any of the wells ruptured, they were at risk of exposure to a host of toxic chemicals, which could cause serious neurological and respiratory problems and even certain kinds of cancer. They could also be at risk of death from a pipeline explosion, like the victims of the Colorado blast in 2017.

The massive Aliso Canyon storage field, which contained more than 110 underground wells, is just a small part of America’s much larger natural gas infrastructure. Approximately 15,000 such wells are active across the United States, and nearly half of them are concentrated in six states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, New York, and California.

For the many thousands of Americans who live near these wells, as well as federal regulators who are tasked with keeping the public safe, these wells are out of sight, out of mind. And a new study shows their dangers to be far greater than previously believed.

Published Monday in the journal Environmental Health, Drew Michanowicz’s study was directly inspired by Aliso Canyon. After that disaster, he and his research team at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health wanted to get a better idea of just how many people in America live near similar underground gas storage facilities.

After surveying the surroundings of more than 9,000 active wells in those six states, they found 6,000 located in suburban areas. Some 53,000 people live within 650 feet of a well, about 10,000 more people than previously estimated. The researchers found that most of those people had no idea about the threat lurking sometimes directly under their homes. “Because of suburban encroachment, some of these homes are sitting literally on top of these storage fields, especially in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Michanowicz said. (For context, the closest home to the Aliso Canyon disaster was a mile away.)

This is especially worrying because most wells at underground storage facilities are more than 50 years old, and most were not even designed to store natural gas, Michanowicz said; his 2017 study estimated that one in five of these wells were built for gas production, not storage, and are thus likely to be missing subsurface safety valves and other equipment needed to store gas under high pressure. (Federal data released after that study also showed Michanowicz’s number was too conservative; two-thirds of these wells are being used in ways they were not intended decades ago.)

Failure to properly maintain wells can lead to disasters like the one in Aliso Canyon. The facility’s owner, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), was accused in a May report of negligence for not repairing corroded pipes, and for not investigating dozens of smaller leaks dating back to the 1970s. “If there is nobody guaranteeing the safety of these other wells across the U.S., Michanowicz said, “tens of thousands of people don’t realize that they’re one corroded steel casing away from disaster.”

A study published in the June 26 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environment International showed what such disaster looks like: The Aliso Canyon rupture released air pollutants including benzene, toluene, xylene, and other chemicals which can cause neurological problems, respiratory problems, and cancer. Now, many of Aliso Canyon’s neighbors, and Los Angeles County firefighters, are suing SoCalGasfor health symptoms they believe were caused by the leak.

But a disaster such as Aliso Canyon’s doesn’t have to occur for nearby communities to be at risk. The June study’s senior author, UCLA Professor Michael Jerrett, said toxins could be seeping out of gas wells across the country every day, not just during catastrophic well blowouts. The leaks go undetected because few of the wells in the U.S. add mercaptan, a chemical that causes the distinct odor most associate with natural gas.
There are some protections in place. Setback rules,. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 3:03 pm

Bean salad with feta (and lots more)

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Just made this. It makes a big bowl:

Bean salad

1 cup uncooked black beans, after cooking about 2 cups
1 cup uncooked Red fife wheat, after cooking about 3 cups
1 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup arugula (somewhat compressed for measuring)
1 cup celery, chopped small
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved vertically (less water comes out)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeños, chopped small
1/2 cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
7 oz sheep & goat milk feta, crumbled
1 avocado, chopped
5 garlic cloves minced
1 cup walnut pieces

Dressing, whisked together in a bowl:
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons (pretty juicy lemons)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp horseradish
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp dried mint
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper

Obviously: measure out beans and grain and then cook them. Add to the salad after you cooked and drained them. (The wheat may not require draining, since it will probably absorb all the cooking water: 1 cup wheat added to 3 cups boiling water, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until water’s absorbed.)

You can vary proportions at will. Leave out the feta and it’s plant based.

Red fife is an old variety of wheat restored to popularity in Canada. It took a little over 2 hours to fully cook and absorb the water, which gave me plenty of time to work on the other ingredients.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 2:02 pm

A thought on first looking the Witter Bynner version of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

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Read the opening of the work with memes (human culture and its memetic evolution) in mind:

Existence is beyond the power of words
To define:
Terms may be used
But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder
Existence opens.

Memes v. physical reality, once more.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes

Big money means bad food and little control

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This video presents material that is shocking but not surprising. It shows the degree to which the US government is controlled by business interests. Worth watching:

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 9:29 am

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